The first time I visited Bandol, more than ten years ago, I noticed a large number of elegant retirees on the cafe terraces on the harbor. Almost all had a permanent dark brown complexion, even in winter, and always had at least one puppy in hand. Since then nothing has changed. Every year when I go back to this small town on the French coast I see the same picture.
Often elderly women wear clothes that look better on their granddaughters, but it is not as unacceptable as the damaged from the sun skin, which they proudly show when walking around the town. I do not understand the obsession that the Mediterranean people have about tanning and their belief that only dark skin is beautiful. Well, it’s beautiful when you’re young and if you’re lucky to be born with a skin type that easily turns darker. But in long term, the price is too high.
Bandol – an atmosphere of a bygone bohemian lifestyle
I like drinking my coffee sitting between these groups of elderly people who enjoy the pleasant senior life in Bandol. They create an atmosphere of a bygone bohemian lifestyle that we, the younger generations, can hardly understand. I imagine them at a young age as hippies, listening to the Beatles. Now the couples sit facing the driveway and watch the passersby under their dark and expensive sunglasses. Others are with friends and lively chatting over a cup of coffee accompanied by a cigarette. Puppies are sitting quietly at the feets of their masters. This is the population of Bandol, but only in the winter time.
During the summer, the town changes completely. There are many people spending their vacation here. There are Dutch, English but mostly people from North Europe. Many of the young French people are here to spend the summer by the sea, in the house of their grandparents. The harbor is full of small boats and larger yachts. Every year it seems like their owners use them less and less, and these beautiful vessels remain sad and lonely, anchored in the port even in summer. It is a sad scene.
Numerous restaurants, while good looking, are not a place that locals visit. If they need to go to a restaurant will be outside the tourist area. For eleven years of visits, I have been to a restaurant in Bandol only twice and I don’t remember them with something extraordinary. But I can’t go without my daily espresso at the café “Le Nautic”, which certainly exists for at least twenty years and offers nice views of the harbor, where on certain days the bazaar is organized.
At the beach in Bandol
Bandol has the inimitable charm of the seaside towns along the Cote d’Azur. The sun shines on the streets and makes the sea shimmer in all its glory in a contrast with the clear blue sky. Palm trees are rustling in the central streets when the Mistral wind cools the evening air. The beach is full of families that bring with them many stuff – folding chairs, cushions, woven mats, thick scarves that they use to do something like a tent, equipment for swimming, freezer bags, strollers …… Topless grandmothers are a common sight. Sometimes I see mixed families – spouses of different races and their beautiful offsprings.
Bandol is all about family!
But my favorite features of Bandol are the family houses. Their architecture though united in one style is also different. There is some competition in this respect and there are some different and original looks. Their owners, however, are good at one thing – knowing how to arrange a place that is pleasant to live, with style, and that offers comfort. The French are great aesthetes. But the greatest treasure of a house in Bandol is the sea view. Breakfast on the veranda overlooking the sea is one of the nicest things in the world that I have ever experienced!
The closest to Bandol airport is Marseilles, approximately one hour drive. All seasons are good for a visit as the climate is mild. If you want to enjoy the sea, you better come in the summer time; if you want to visit out of the tourist season and still to enjoy sunny weather – come to Bandol in April/May or September/October. No matter what your choice of season is, I am sure you will appreciate the sweet charm of Cote d’Azur and its elegant retirees.
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